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    Review of A LETTER OF MARY by Laurie R. King (see her website)


    Bantam, 1996

    Reviewed by Cathy Richard Dodson (see her website)

    Although A LETTER OF MARY was originally published in 1996, the resurgence of interest in Mary Magdalene offered a perfect excuse for its March 2005 reprinting. This novel is the third in the Mary Russell mystery series, written around the young detective Mary Russell and her much older husband, the one and only Sherlock Holmes himself! Ms. King has created a wonderful study of 'what if' Holmes married late in life and trained his young wife in the sleuthing arts that made him a legend in his own time. Ms. King serves as 'editor' for these lost manuscripts as they come to her via various mysterious means, after which she 'edits' them into novels.

    This particular adventure takes place in the summer of 1923, as Mary and Holmes are relaxing in their Sussex Downs home and pursuing their individual studies. When a visiting archaeologist, Dorothy Ruskin, makes a surprise visit and presents them with a mysterious manuscript locked in a puzzle box, their curiosity is aroused at once. Especially for Mary, whose studies in theology make her a perfect candidate to translate this letter that appears to be from a female disciple of Jesus Christ.

    But when Miss Ruskin is unexpectedly killed in London only a day later, both suspect foul play and set out to discover what happened to their friend. Their journey leads them both to take on disguises and role-playing in order to gain the confidence of various suspects in the case. Could Miss Ruskin's own sister have been involved in her death, or was it perhaps Colonel Edwards, the man the victim met the last night of her life and to whom Mary must now play secretary? One way or another, Holmes and Mary intend to uncover the truth.

    This wonderful novel once again captures the character of Sherlock Holmes, but also offers a refreshing and spirited young lady detective in the form of Miss Russell, an independent woman even in her post-Victorian decade. The early forensics provide fun reading, and it's nice to see that Holmes finally 'settled down.' Though at times the narrative gets a bit heavy, overall A LETTER OF MARY offers a mystery that keeps you guessing until the very end.

    See more reviews of mysteries by Laurie R. King.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 2/07/06

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